Philosophizing

22Apr09

I got some great feedback on my last post from the community over at Brazen Careerist, none the least of which was a general disillusionment and weariness at the very talk of generational conflict period.

Trust me: I’m right there with you.

So I decided it was time to infuse some new blood into the discussion.  Enter Karl Mannheim, esteemed Hungarian philosopher and so-called “Father of generational studies”.

Looks like someone's studying inter-generational relations right now...

Looks like someone's studying inter-generational relations right now...

Introductions having been made, here’s another nugget from the official Thesis Vault:

The goal of effective marketing communication is shared meaning. The very terms Gen Y, Gen X, and Boomers are often dismissed as “marketing terms created by salespeople who would like their statements to be meaningful”. A research analyst from Javelin Research extolled advice on a furniture retail website, explaining that, “Businesses must talk to Gen Y where they hang–and in their language.”

Call me crazy, but I’m just not sure this is a new concept.

Karl Mannheim, a Hungarian scholar and philosopher widely renowned as the father of generational studies, defined three building blocks generations as:

Site or location: a generation could be defined by a shared response, especially a traumatic event that unites a cohort (think the Vietnam War or 9/11)

Actuality: Mannheim criticizes Marx’s reliance on class division citing that age groups were just as likely to instigate social change as economic or social classes

Units: though divisions within a generation undoubtedly exist, they are still collectively defined by their proximity to one another

Through one or a combination of these lenses, Mannheim suggests that the closer a younger generation gets to actually living through the same experiences as generations prior, the more disillusioned they become with the disparity between the ideals they were promised and the disappointing realities. This gap in expectations leads to the development of values original to that cohort, referred to by Mannheim as a “set of collective strivings,” and media and other external factors serve “as vehicles of formative tendencies and fundamental integrative attitudes” for the evolution of these collective strivings.

So what is Gen Y collectively striving for?

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